Why Our First Outdoor Experiences Are More Important Than We Think
Getting Kids Outdoors: Why It Matters
A nationwide poll from The Nature Conservancy in 2011 was an eye-opening testament to the importance of getting kids outdoors. Specifically, the data showed that if American youth are given opportunities to have meaningful outdoor experiences, they will be more likely to value nature, engage with it, and feel empowered to do something about it.
In June of 2016, BLM-Utah, in partnership with Latinos in Action (LIA) and OARS, helped give 16 urban Latino high school students from Utah—most of whom had never camped or rafted before—their first multi-day outdoor experience.
On the trip, the students stepped out of their comfort zones as they conquered rapids on the Colorado River, slept under the stars, hiked on public lands and explored red rock canyons near Moab, Utah.
But beyond providing an unforgettable outdoor experience, the trip was an opportunity to teach these kids leadership skills, how to take care of themselves in the outdoors, as well as the importance of respecting and protecting the environment. Additionally, mentors from LIA, the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, and Friends of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks shared their insights about education paths and careers in natural resources.
OARS donated the overnight rafting trip component of the experience as part of our long-term commitment to getting kids out on multi-day wilderness trips in hopes of fostering a lifelong love of the outdoors and a new generation of environmental advocates.
Jose Enriquez, Chairman of LIA, summed it up best in the video by saying, “Now these kids can go back to school and tell people, ‘Hey, I floated down the Colorado River,’ which is an incredible story, an incredible experience that they’ll enjoy forever.”
And that’s exactly the point, right? After all, how many of us can recall a wilderness “first” that sparked our own love and appreciation of the outdoors.
Video/Photo courtesy of BLM-Utah